I have done something that I haven’t done in eons. I didn’t get out of bed until after 10 a.m. It wasn’t because I was until some ungodly hour, either. I shut the set off midway through the 11 o’clock news, mainly because I had no interest in learning who won the Indianapolis 500. (People actually pay money, or stay glued to their TV sets, to watch a bunch of cars zooming around in a circle over and over? We’re through the looking-glass here, people!)
The sky has turned from slightly cloudy to leaden right now. We’re going to spend the rest of the afternoon (into the evening) with Pat, Tanya, and their kids. Prudently, we decided to eat inside. We had talked about going out in the boondocks and having a picnic out there, but Steph doesn’t want to ride her scooter in mud and rain, so we’ll be indoors.
I read Steph’s entry about Memorial Day, and it reminded me that the only exciting thing about Memorial Day for me was that it was one of the rare occasions when the mausoleum at Oak Grove Cemetery in Marietta was unlocked. I found it fascinating to see people buried in a wall, as opposed to in the ground. Steph mentioned the above-ground cemeteries in New Orleans, because the water table is so low there. I have yet to visit New Orleans, but I remember seeing them during the ghoulish LSD scene in Easy Rider.
Very occasionally, as a family we would go to my mother’s family’s burial place, Olive Cemetery in Caldwell, Ohio. On Memorial Day 1999, when Susie was just over a year old, I took her there. It had been the first time I had been there since my parents split up (when I was 12), so I was interested to see the gravesite–the first time since my grandfather died in 1989. So, en route to Marietta to see my dad and his wife, my friend Rich (who is addicted to anything re geneaology) made the detour to Olive Cemetery. Here’s a picture of Susie and me at my grandparents’ grave:
The bronze tablet in the foreground, right in front of Susie, is for my grandfather, a World War I veteran. The stone further back features his name and that of his first wife (my grandmother). My grandmother died before I was born, and based on what I’ve heard about her, I’m glad I never met her.
She lied about an awful family tragedy when the complete truth about it was bad enough. When my maternal grandfather was 11, his dad died under mysterious circumstances. The story that my mother and her siblings always heard was that on a winter night, Aaron (my great-grandfather) hanged himself in the barn, so that my grandfather (Lester) would find him in the morning when he went down to do his chores.
None of us knew the real truth–except that other independent evidence indicated that my grandmother’s grotesque account was untrue. Finally, the aforementioned friend Rich went to the microfilm files of The Caldwell Republican Journal, which was the local newspaper. Aaron had made a date to meet a neighbor in an outbuilding on his (Aaron’s) property. The neighbor went to the outbuilding, and found that Aaron had died by cutting his throat with a straight razor. He had done it away from the house, and scheduled the appointment with the neighbor so that the children wouldn’t have to be the ones to find him. (Why he did it is the $64 million question. He had been a widower for four or five years, and the prevailing theory is that his oldest daughter was violently opposed to his plans to remarry.)
Oak Grove Cemetery in Marietta had some legends of its own. Besides the mausoleum, one of its attractions was the grave of a Mr. Dinsmoor. He apparently had made a fortune in oil during his time in Marietta, and when he died, he had a big monument over his final resting place. On top of a huge tombstone, there was a statue of him that resembled the one in the Lincoln Memorial, except that oil derricks were there in lieu of the arms of the chair. One of the crazy legends about that statue was if you walked around the base of the monument six times and threw a rock at the statue, if it hit him, one of the fingers would move. (It’s here that I have to confess that I spent many summer afternoons, even well into my teens, checking the veracity of this. I guess if you try hard enough, you’d see it.)
There was a kid named Brian whose family ran one of the funeral home/private ambulance services in Marietta. I got my first bloody nose after I asked him if he slept in a bed with a lid on it. He and I were in another cemetery, and he pointed to one of the monuments where there was a wide base, a slender shaft in the middle, all topped by a little pyramid. Brian actually had me believing that they had taken off the top, stuffed the guy in there, and then resealed it. After all, his family was in the business, so wouldn’t he know what he was talking about?
On an entirely different subject, while I was prowling the Web this weekend, I discovered a link to a page honoring Monitor, a long-running radio and information show on NBC. It ran from the mid-’50s until 1975, and I remember hearing it in bits and pieces in Marietta, until WMOA-AM, the station that covered it, switched from NBC to CBS. Anyhow, here is the link: http://www.monitorbeacon.net, so you can see it yourself. Download the sound files, too. They’re lots of fun! You may even remember, “You’re on the Monitor Beacon!”